"The device is invisible to the eye, but not to the touch," said Silberstein. The implantation procedure involves local anesthesia along with conscious sedation so you are awake, but not fully aware. There may be some mild pain associated with this surgery, he said.
Study co-author Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of Michigan Head Pain and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, and a member of the advisory board for the Migraine Research Foundation, said this therapy could be an important option for some people with migraines.
"There were numerous patients who did benefit in terms of pain control and quality of life," Saper said. "We don't have any universally effective therapies for migraine, so we don't ever expect everyone to have dramatic results, but for those few that it works in, it's life-changing."
But, he said, "it is surgical and there are risks to surgery, and there are unknowns such as how long the effects will last." Risks of the new neurostimulation procedure may include infection and the device can sometimes dislodge. Saper has not received any compensation from the device manufacturer.
"Occipital nerve stimulation is a treatment of great promise for patients with intractable chronic migraine," said Dr. Richard B. Lipton, director of the Headache Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and a board member of the Migraine Research Foundation. He is not affiliated with the new study.
"Eliminating a full week per month of headaches is a huge gain for chronic migraine sufferers and translates into big improvements in treatment satisfaction and quality of life," he said. "This treatment
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